Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DAV Working with Legislature, Administration to Make New Disabled Veteran Business Certification Veteran Friendly


Since mid-April, DAV has taken a leading role in working with Governor Walker’s Administration, Assembly veterans affairs committee chairman Rep. Dick Spanbauer and committee staff, and Legislative Council attorneys in helping to revise the the long awaited implementing rules for the new State of Wisconsin Service-Disabled Veteran Business (SDVB) certification program.

2009 Wisconsin Act 299 created preferences in awarding state contracts or orders to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans with at least a 30% VA disability rating. The Act permits acceptance of a qualified responsible bid from a disabled veteran owned business that is no more than 5% higher than the apparent low bid or other most advantageous proposal.

The preferences are similar to those currently available to minority-owned businesses, but the Act does not create any goals for total amounts or percentages of state contracts or orders to be awarded to the disabled veteran-owned businesses. If a business is both disabled veteran-owned and minority owned, the preferences cannot be “stacked” and only a single 5% preference applies.

Act 299 directed the Department of Commerce to promulgate rules to implement provisions of the Act.  The creation of s. 560.033, Stats., which established the preference for SDVB’s, took effect on May 27, 2010. The remaining provisions took effect on November 1, 2010.

Despite those requirements for implementation written into law, the program, authored by former Assemblyman Gary Sherman and unanimously passed into law with full DAV and bipartisan support, is now finally being implemented after it languished in the state Department of Commerce last year after the bill’s enactment.

Sadly, despite DAV urging, neither WDVA under the recently resigned Secretary nor the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs took any action in support of this legislation during the most recent legislative session. This was yet one more example of the dysfunction that has been plaguing the agency that has been part of the basis of DAV’s support for a complete overhaul of the department.

Upon notification of the draft implementing rule language by the Governor’s office, DAV took immediate action to express strong concerns about the agency’s proposed rules being unnecessarily burdensome and so veteran unfriendly that it would likely turn off potential applicants from ever applying. 

As a result, the proposed, veteran-unfriendly rules were prevented from automatic implementation.

Today, DAV staff met with Chairman Spanbauer’s office and legislative drafting attorneys for a second extended meeting, this time for a line-by-line scrub of the 22-page proposed rule to make the rule much more veteran friendly.

After the next draft is produced, a legislative hearing on the final proposed implementing rules is possible.  As always, DAV would seek bipartisan support for these make-sense improvements from the original proposal.

DAV has requested to be part of a possible ad hoc advisory committee to help ensure the final SDVB application is as simple, easy to follow, and veteran friendly as possible.

In the past, DAV has expressed concern that fees for the SDVB business certification should be equal to those for the two other state business certification programs. DAV has also express concern that a one-year requirement for being in business is a potential barrier to newly returning veteran entrepreneurs. DAV has also expressed concern over an arbitrary requirement that an SDVB would also have to have other business contracts outside of state government contracts.

It is expected that at least some of these issues will be resolved during the current rulemaking process.

In addition the the entire legislature that passed this bill last year, we owe a huge thank you to Governor Walker’s office and to Assembly Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs Chairman Dick Spanbauer and staff, without whom the very veteran unfriendly rules would have simply been enacted into law.

--Anthony Hardie

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